The entire point of competition is to determine who is the best. Singular. However, over the last several decades, the word champion has become almost meaningless in boxing through the proliferation of alphabet participation trophies. In this era it’s always refreshing when the two best fighters in a division not only want to render those straps redundant, but actually do it.
Saturday night at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, in a fight televized on ESPN, junior welterweights Josh Taylor (17-0, 13 KO) and Jose Carlos Ramirez (26-0, 17 KO) will meet to determine who is the champion at 140 pounds. The fight hasn’t garnered as much mainstream coverage as many would like, but that doesn’t matter. This match is a hardcore fan’s wet dream, featuring absolutely prime offensive minded fighters whose technique matches their ferocity. With that in mind, the TQBR crew came together to discuss what we think, and hope, will happen.
- How will Ramirez handle Taylor’s speed and movement?
Swain: He’s going to have to make sure that he’s getting off first and stay in a range that works for him. The problems cutting off th ring Ramirez had against Postol likely won’t be a problem, as Taylor seldom gets on his bike, preferring to dart in and out. The range will be a critical factor for both. Taylor is terrific at long range and even better in close, so Ramirez is going to have to try to stop him from doing that by dictating the distance. Much easier said than done.
Starks: Don’t think he can. The movement, in particular. But if Ramirez does manage, it’ll be because he disrupts Taylor’s rhythm somehow. When Taylor gets flowing, his mix of defense and offense is breathtaking. That probably means hurting Taylor at some point. Maybe it just means an oppressive body attack — taking Taylor’s breath away, in other words, instead of letting him do so to his audience.
Langendorf: The way he handles everything in the ring — plunging in head —and fists-first. Ramirez isn’t going to dance with Taylor; he doesn’t have the feet or inclination for it. But although Ramirez will have to take his share of licks (and likely then some) to generate his own offense, few fighters are more comfortable or effective standing in the pocket and exchanging fire. If Ramirez can slow Taylor with his body punching and force the Scot to dig in for a war, it’ll be his kind of fight.
Hedtke: The best bet for Ramirez is to turn this into a shootout. Ramirez has, at times, shown a propensity to be dictated to, at least in terms of pace. Both Viktor Postol and Jose Zepeda were able to lull him into a tempo much more suitable to their styles than Ramirez would probably have liked. Ramirez won both of those fights, sure, but certainly didn’t look like the beast he did against Maurice Hooker in 2019. Ramirez is a solid boxer but he’s at his best in a firefight, especially against a craftsman like Taylor. Ramirez needs to come in hard, establish his range and get to pounding. All together now….”that’s what she said.” Wonderful. A truly great bit.
- How will Taylor handle Ramirez’s volume?
Swain: Volume of his own, and a his usual aggression. Ramirez is going to try to keep Taylor in his preferred range, but Taylor’s great strength is changing distance. If Taylor can tag Ramirez from the outside, and work him over in close, Ramirez won’t be able to get into any kind of rhythm.
Starks: This is kind of interesting: CompuBox counted Regis outlanding Taylor in their wonderful battle. Likewise, Ramirez is known for his volume but got outlanded by Viktor Postol in his most recent combat. That means both guys have proven they can win with less activity than the other man. Taylor won more definitively against a better opponent in so doing, which suggests he’ll be able to do so against Ramirez, who has proven himself elite at 140 — but my view is he’s the least of the three between Taylor, Prograis and himself. Taylor just needs to land the more eye-catching shots and he should be able to infatuate the judges.
Langendorf: His mobility and ranginess are two of Taylor’s best assets in this, or any, fight. But he’ll want to be an aggressive counter-puncher, using those gifts to try to hurt — or at least significantly chip away at — Ramirez early on. If Taylor takes a too-strategic approach to bank rounds, he’ll have the advantage — right up until he doesn’t. Ramirez has an incredible sense of the moment, knowing when his opponent is gassed or vulnerable, and fights with a relentlessness that gives him ample opportunity to seize on it. Taylor shouldn’t trust his artfulness alone to win the day.
Hedtke: I mean, the obvious answer here is to stay the fuck away from him, right? Taylor showed against Regis Prograis that he can get work done on the inside but I’m not sure that’s something he wants to try to prove against Ramirez as well. Taylor is tough as hell but getting slick is his best bet against Ramirez. We all wanna see a banger but if Taylor wants to walk away from this with a shitload of belts he’s gonna have to keep his distance and not allow Ramirez to get set. He needs to stay wet and slippery the entire time. I apparently can’t discuss this fight without making bone-zone metaphors so let’s just move on.
- Does either man have a power or chin advantage?
Swain: I don’t know, because they can both crack and take an excellent shot, but I can’t wait to find out.
Starks: Doesn’t seem like it. They’re both heavy hitters who can dish and eat. That’s got the makings of a terrific fight, beyond the stakes of establishing a true champ (via the Transnational Boxing Rankings).
Langendorf: We’ve seen both take, and walk through, shots. But even in Taylor’s gorilla throwdown of a fight with Regis Prograis, he didn’t face the level of aggression and sheer punching volume he can expect from Ramirez. On the other hand, the Californian has never been in with an opponent who has the ability to avoid and parry with the power Taylor possesses. Both fighters’ power jumps a level when they’re able to set their feet, which, indirectly, makes the durability of their chins the X factor on Saturday.
Hedtke: Gotta give a slight power advantage to Ramirez but Taylor has an S-Tier chin. He took shots from Prograis that would set off car alarms two neighborhoods over and he reacted as if a ladybug had landed on his fat little head. Ramirez can absolutely bang if he needs to but I don’t see him being able to penetrate the forcefield around Taylor’s brain. Whatever skull-based evolutionary process that took place to insulate Scottish people from the smog that engulfs their metropolitan areas will serve Taylor well. Nature finds a way, I guess.
- Does Taylor’s switch from long-time trainer Shane McGuigan to the less accomplished Ben Davison play a factor in the fight, and how?
Swain: The rapport that McGuigan and Taylor had in training/tactics as well as during matches is very rare. If Davison has been able to gain his trust and can pass along good advice in the corner, there shouldn’t be any appreciable difference. IF.
Starks: This might be the real wildcard. We didn’t get to see much of what the Taylor-Davison team-up was capable of with a quick KO in Taylor’s last bout. If Davison — a fine trainer — has been remaking Taylor in some significant way, then this could be a dangerous transitional time for Taylor. That seems unlikely, though. Taylor isn’t a fighter who needed an overhaul. He just needs to keeping being what he is, and if Davison helps him some, it could be a net gain. But if McGuigan was a necessary secret sauce to Taylor’s success, even a little slip might be enough for Ramirez to topple him.
Langendorf: How the hell should I know? I don’t want to diminish the importance of a good trainer, but at this level and age — and having never lost a professional fight — Taylor isn’t likely to change his stripes now, either for better or worse. If he was confident enough to make the switch in corners, my guess is he’ll be confident enough in the ring (with a wealth of past experience to fall back on) against Ramirez.
Hedtke: Probably but not really. How’s that for a fence-sitting answer? What I mean though is that Taylor has been fighting for over half of his life. He knows what he’s doing. There’s a lot of opinions in boxingland about Davison’s efficacy as a trainer but ultimately the fighter is going to be who they’re going to be. Taylor says he’s more relaxed and in a better place under Davison’s tutelage so that can only be a good thing. How much that new found peace translates to better results when someone like Jose Ramirez has you pinned to the ropes with your exposed ribcage in his crosshairs remains to be seen but my guess is “not a ton.”
- Who ya got?
Swain: Taylor by unanimous decision or late stoppage.
Starks: Taylor by unanimous decision.
Langendorf: Taylor. I think Ramirez has a real shot. If he buzzes the Scot at some point, even briefly, he could end it with a quick swarm. But Taylor has both the wheels and the will to steel himself when he can’t steer clear of Ramirez’s attack. Gun to my head? I’ll call it a Taylor TKO8.
Hedtke: I really really really wanna say Ramirez in a fight of the year slugfest but give me Taylor in an upbeat but measured fight. Hell, let’s say 116-112ish, shall we?
- Where do the winner and loser go from here?
Swain: If it’s a close fight, a rematch. Prograis and Zepeda would be excellent next opponents for the loser, if there’s no need for a rematch. My preference would be for the winner to move up to 147 and fight Terence Crawford. That said, Gervonta Davis is moving up to 140, and previously called out Taylor. I wouldn’t mind seeing Taylor send him to hell.
Starks: Chef Swain has the right recipe, although I favor Taylor sticking around a little longer at 140 if he’s got any remaining viable challengers. I’d love to see Taylor send Davis to hell, too, but Davis has the kind of talent to give Taylor trouble, if anyone at 140 or below can.
Langendorf: Sweet baby Jesus, give us a rematch.
Hedtke: To the bar. Both of them. They’ve earned it.
(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank)